We’re not even halfway through the qualification process for the 2018 World Cup in Russia but plenty of fans will already be planning their trip to Eurasia next summer. The groups are beginning to take shape and a number of nations will be confident of securing their spot in the competition.

In 2014, Germany produced a masterclass to thrash Brazil 7-1 in the semi-final before Mario Götze scored in injury time to secure an incredible victory over Argentina. Both sides will be looking to reach the showpiece event again next year but there are plenty of viable nations in with a chance of glory. Here are three of the leading candidates as of March 3rd.

FRANCE

Didier Deschamps’ side were well backed ahead of Euro 2016 and home advantage almost proved vital as the French reached the final of the event in Paris. Unfortunately, they came up against a solid Portugal side on that day and France fans were left devastated as Eder notched the winner deep into extra-time.

France were hurt by that defeat but Les Bleus have responded well in recent months. Right now, Deschamps’ men are top of Group A – three points clear of The Netherlands. With so much talent going forward, France have the potential to blow teams away but they cannot afford to be too ‘gung-ho’; to win the World Cup, you must be disciplined in defense.

BRAZIL

Brazil have more or less booked their ticket to Russia in the South America section and the five-time World Cup winners currently have a four-point advantage over Uruguay. While rivals Argentina are struggling in fifth, Brazil are at the summit and Tite’s men are looking strong as they look to win the competition for the sixth time.

 

At the time of writing, bet365 are offering 8/1 in their international football betting markets for Brazil to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy once again. With so much young talent making an impact on the world stage, Brazil are looking very strong indeed and Manchester City man Gabriel Jesus will look to emulate the legendary Ronaldo throughout the tournament.

ENGLAND

England are labelled as contenders at every World Cup yet they always fall short. This time, things could be different. Gareth Southgate has enjoyed a decent start to life as Three Lions boss and England will fancy their chances of securing qualification for the finals in the near future. There are plenty of points to be won and lost but England are looking solid.

 

Defensively, England are blessed with a plethora of talent – they are yet to concede a goal in four qualifying matches. The Three Lions have scored just six goals so far but that won’t be Southgate’s main concern right now. If England are to compete with the best teams on the planet at the World Cup next year, they must regain their mojo and swagger. Southgate is inexperienced but the confidence of youth could help the Three Lions to claim a second World Cup victory.